Sunday, September 26, 2010

The truth about my life in Kenya...

An American friend called me this week crying, "I'm having an I-hate-Kenya-day and I just need someone to vent to!" All foreigners have these kinds of days in Kenya, and for some of us they are becoming more frequent. We get frustrated at the stupid drivers, the inefficiency of everything, the beggars who come to our car windows, the thieves who car-jack or kidnap or steel your side mirror as you're sitting in traffic. We don't talk about these things to people back home because people back home will worry or don't understand or will ask us why we just don't go back to America. The truth is, we like the adventure of living overseas. All the good things outweigh the frustrating moments.

I look at Americans I know in Kenya who have been living here for 20 years and love working in Kenyan. Going back to America is something they'll have to do one day, but it's not an exciting thing. I feel like living in America, for me, is not very exciting either, but I don't think I'm one of those people who will want to live in Kenya forever. I'm one of those people whose "I-hate-Kenya-days" are becoming more frequent, and I don't know if the rose-colored glasses of my first year here will ever return. I definitely have a lot of wonderful moments where Kenya is the only place I want to be... the beach, being at the children's center, hanging out with my British co-workers, chillin' with friends, hopping a plane down to Tanzania or over to Uganda. But I also feel like Kenya is turning me into a cynical person.

A couple weeks ago I struck up a conversation with a recent college graduate from America who had a grant to travel the world studying democratic governments. He was a very smart guy from a prestigious school, and he proceeded to tell me how things SHOULD be working in Kenya and Africa, if only they would do this or that. I added that "Kenya will never work well because the government is corrupt and only think of their pocketbooks, a secondary education only gets Kenyans a working-class job as a gardner or houseworker so what is the point, and you can only help one or two people really, you'll never fix the big picture here. It's impossible." His idealism went against everything I said and he thought I was very wrong to say all of this, but after living here over two years, this is the reality I see. Kenya makes even the most optimistic person, cynical. I could go on and on why Kenya will never be "fixed" according to Western standards, and I hate how the reality of life here has taken my optimism and buried it deep within me where I don't see it for many days, sometimes weeks. This is the reality of life in Kenya. This is why my days are numbered in this country. Because some day soon I would like to be an optimistic person again.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Best Husband Award Goes To...

Mine! At midnight as I was doubled over with abdominal pain, my dear husband rushed me to the hospital. He got mad at the slow Kenyan emergency room doctors and nurses. He ran around paying a bill for the IV, then a bill for the shot in my butt, then a bill for this, and a bill for that. He ran my pee and blood to the lab. He sat and held me as I cried and as I slept. He got me a load of medical prescriptions. And he got me home in bed feeling much better by 3 am.

Another experience at the Kenyan emergency room found me with a UT infection. Nothing a lot of antibiotics and $120 can't fix. But once again we were reminded how much we hate how Kenya works sometimes. From our western mind-set, we want the emergency room to move quickly. When someone is in obvious pain, we hope that doctors would rush to figure it out. Instead, some worker takes your blood pressure and weight and height, even if half your face is ripped off. Kenya has a lot of good things, but moving quickly is never one of them. It's moments like this I have to keep visions of the things I love about Kenya in my mind and remember that all places, even home, have their down-sides. Missing American efficiency today and looking forward to the Kenyan beach in three weeks!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

British vs. American

As an American who is now teaching at a British school, this is my comparison of the two systems and cultures...

The Brits love to socialize, and it's considered more important to go out for drinks than to work oneself to death.

Americans value working hard above hanging out with co-workers. They even have a name for it, "workaholic".

The British school system is very structured, with the "time table" (schedule) given to teachers.

The American system gives teachers a lot of responsibility and they create their own schedules in the classroom (for the most part).

The UK has a national curriculum.

The US has state curriculum.

The UK and US systems do a lot of testing these days!

The British system has more checks and balances for their teachers, putting more responsibility on the school rather than the teacher.

The American system is trying to have more checks and balances (No Child Left Behind), but haven't figured out how to balance responsibility yet. (Opinion of course.)

British teachers spell "artefact" and "colour".

American teachers spell "artifact" and "color".

British teachers in Kenya have a drink on campus.

American teachers have to wait until happy hour.

The Brits have lots of holidays. Long holiday breaks.

The Americans don't know how to take a break, and most of them think there is too much vacation for schools. Learn to take a break!

British people travel to other countries.

Americans travel to other states.

British and American teachers are good at practicing patience every day!

This is all a matter of opinion, but it's mine. :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Our Flat

Here is where we live now... It's a small flat across from the school I'm working at in the middle of Nairobi. We are on the third floor and can see the neighboring slum from our window, the busy street outside our gate, the school, and who is coming and going from the compound. It's small and much different from the community house we lived in amongst tea fields, but we're filling it with our stuff and having lots of friends visit. So it's beginning to feel like home.

You can see all the pots we own in the dish drainer because we have to boil our water for drinking. A water filter didn't come with the apartment, so we're getting our clean water the free way.
Living Room.

Will saying, "What are you doing?"

Our Guest Room.
It's small but welcome to any visitors who want to venture this way. We've already enjoyed putting it to use!

It came with a hideous floral shower curtain. There aren't a lot of options for home decor in Nairobi. We've picked out a new one at Target, but have to wait for someone coming from America. No Target here! :)

Master Suite.
For awhile our bed was simply a mattress on the floor until one day I came home from school and my wonderful husband had bought this beautiful bed from a carpenter on the side of the road. Picking up end-tables this week!
We still need some pictures on the walls and new photos in the picture frames, but overall I think we're doing well for three weeks into living in our Kenyan flat. Family and friends are welcome any time!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Our Europe Pics!

These are some of our pictures of Europe and a few stories from our travels. In no particular order....

Munich, Germany's town hall looked like a gothic building like the Hunchback would live in.
Prague Castle... I want to live here!

The hills are alive with the sound of music... la, la, la, la. This is where the movie was filmed in Salzburg, Austria.

Bled Castle in Slovenia overlooks a lake. It poured rain the entire day we were there, but we still hiked up to the castle.

Here you can see the destruction of the 1990's war in Croatia. Bullet holes in buildings and rubble still remained in parts of every city we visited in Croatia.

This was our room in Kotor, Montenegro. We stayed in an extra room of a lady's house. We LOVED the mouse carpet and pink striped sheets.

Meteora, Greece was one of our FAVORITE places we went. Great hiking, history, views, and monasteries.

Athens, Greece... Just like you picture Ancient Greece.

Santorini, Greece was a beautiful island. Picturesque Greece to the max!

Vatican City has the most beautiful churches I've ever visited. Also saw a lot of graves of past popes.

Will was a great navigator through all of Europe. He is a mad man with the map!

Pisa... The tower really does lean, but besides that, there is nothing to see in this college town. Was kind of like Newberg with some older buildings.

Cinque Terre, Italy was a great place to explore and wonderful swimming holes, which we greatly enjoyed on the HOT HOT day we were there.

Lichtenstein Castle where the King of Lichtenstein still lives and rules.

In the Alps of Switzerland. So beautiful!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Alive and Well

For the family and friends who read this, I just wanted you to know that we're well and trying to get our lives in order again in Kenya. We arrived in Nairobi on a Monday afternoon, started work on Tuesday, moved to our new flat in town on Tuesday as well, and tried to see friends sometime in between. It's been hectic and will continue to be for a while as we adjust to a new living situation and my new job and our new friends and still doing all the old stuff. The point of this post is to say... We just got internet hooked up and we'll try and catch up with you as soon as possible. I'll update you with more pictures from Europe and our new place. Until I get my act together, we love you and can't wait to catch up. You can also call our Vonage phone number during our evenings (11 hours ahead of AK, 10 hours ahead of OR/CA, and 8 hours ahead of MS).

Love you and talk soon I hope!